By Sarah Pride
Patrick Henry College
PHC sophomore Laura Fennig signals "V for victory" after an intense climb to the peak of Laguna 69, near Huaraz, Peru
Such an approach to life characterized Fennig’s entire summer. Deciding that she needed to refresh her three years of high-school Spanish in order to pass the intermediate foreign language proficiency test at PHC, she began looking for opportunities. Her aunt and uncle, who are missionaries in Africa, knew other missionaries in Peru, who in turn knew people who lived and worked in Huaraz. Before long, Fennig made contact with an organization, Arco Iris, that works with street boys in Huaraz and runs two orphanages, as well as a textile mill and a bakery for mothers. So she packed herself off to Peru.
Fennig with a few of the Peruvian orphans she helped "wrangle" this summer
At Huaraz, she helped “wrangle” small children at the orphanages, taking them on outings to the park down the street. She enjoyed stepping out of her comfort zone and learning more about how others live, eating a lot of rice and potatoes and immersing herself in the language and culture. And she also visited Cuzco and Machu Picchu, old Incan sites, an almost obligatory pilgrimage for Peruvian visitors.
As for her language proficiency goals, Fennig wasn’t prepared for the peculiarities of the local dialect. “They apparently speak ‘hillbilly’ Spanish in Peru, dropping consonants and such,” jokes Fennig, repeating a term shared by another native Spanish speaker. “Definitely at first, I wondered, ‘Laura, what have you gotten yourself into?’”
“One of my friends said I should try the bass guitar instead, so I did,” explains Fennig, who did already play the regular guitar. It worked out just fine.
At PHC, Fennig has decided to major in Government: International Politics and Policy (IPP). And while she is unsure at this point what she wants to do after graduation, she embraces the adventure ahead much like she did her summer in Peru.
The process of exploration and discovery excites her, and she is always ready to seize the day.
“I would like to try an internship with an American embassy overseas, if possible,” she says. “You can have ideas, but you don’t know what works and what doesn’t until you get more experience.”